Lighting Savings Tips
While not making up as large a percentage of your energy bill as your air conditioning, lighting your home accounts for roughly 10% of the total usage.
Replacing the five old incandescent light bulbs or fixtures you use most frequently in your home with newer, more efficient bulbs with the ENERGY STAR® designation from the EPA could save you as much as $75 every year, depending on the rate you pay for your electricity.
Turn out the lights
One of the simplest ways to save money on your electric bills is to turn off lights in unoccupied rooms. Kids can be one of the worst offenders for leaving the lights on. Turn the tables on them by deputizing them as the “Power Police”. From now on it will be their official job to spot energy waste when the lights are on in empty rooms, turn off the light and report the offense to you. You may find yourself sitting in the dark every now and then, but you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes when your children own this process!
Timing is everything
Use timers on your holiday lights and decorations. This prevents you from forgetting to turn them off, letting them run all night and then leaving them on all the next day because it’s hard to tell they are on in the bright sunlight. Depending on how elaborate your display is, you can run up a serious increase in your electric bill if you forget a couple of times.
What’s the difference between all these light bulbs?
There are so many different choices today for light bulbs. It can get pretty confusing without a set of instructions. Below is the basics for the old incandescent bulbs and three of the most common more energy efficient bulbs.
Incandescent light bulbs (no longer available)
Up until a couple of years ago, the incandescent bulb we grew up with had not changed much since it was invented by Edison. While they had a pleasing soft white light and were fairly cheap to buy, they had a major flaw. They were extremely inefficient, with 90% of the energy being given off as heat.
You’re hit with a double whammy. First, you’re paying for a lot of energy that wasn’t being used to light the room. Second, incandescents were heat sources, causing your air conditioning and ceiling fans to run longer to cool your room.
Halogen incandescent light bulbs – the next generation
The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 requires that all incandescent light bulbs available today are at least 25% more energy efficient. The halogen incandescent bulb is filled with halogen gas to increase bulb efficiency. These bulbs are available in a wide range of shapes and colors. A halogen incandescent lasts between 1,000 and 3,000 hours compared to 1,000 hours for the old traditional incandescent.
A 43W halogen incandescent replaces the standard 60W incandescent. They use about 28% less energy so they meet the federal minimum energy efficiency standard. The halogen incandescents are still some of the least expensive bulbs at the cash register when you buy them. However, they are still far less efficient and have much shorter usage lifetimes than the bulbs described below. This makes halogen incandescents some of the most expensive bulbs in the long run.
Compact Fluorescent (CFL) light bulbs
The CFL bulb takes energy efficiency to the next level.
A 13W to 15W CFL produces the same brightness as the old 60W incandescent bulb, a 75% energy savings. Replacing 25% of the incandescent bulbs in your highest use areas with the high efficiency CFL can cut the portion of your electric bill you pay for lighting nearly in half. The life of a CFL bulb is 10,000 hours compared to 1,000 hours for the old traditional incandescent. Lasting 10 times longer can costing 75% less to use make the CFL a bargain. What you save far outweighs the slightly higher cost at the cash register when you purchase the bulb.
A few concerns
As good as this sounds for the CFL, there are a few negatives to consider before making your decision. First there is the issue of the color of light the CFLs produce.
They’re known for producing a bright, blueish light that can be harsh and less than flattering to skin tones.
The good news is you can now find CFLs that produce the warmer soft white light associated with incandescents. Simply make sure you see 2700°K on the packaging to get the soft white color.
Another big complaint has been that CFLs couldn’t be used with dimmers. Luckily you can now find CFLs that are fully dimmable or offer three stages of brightness.
There’s also the criticism that CFL bulbs take a while to reach their full brightness when turned on. This is something inherent in fluorescent bulbs, however many people don’t notice or seem to mind the difference. If you are interested in replacing your incandescents with CFLs, you should try a single CFL first to see if you are bothered by the delay before making a large investment in CFL bulbs.
The last two negatives are health issues. All fluorescent bulbs, including CFLs, contain a small amount of mercury which the EPA classifies as a toxic element. They don’t emit mercury during normal use, but release it into the environment when they break in your home or are disposed of improperly. CFLs also emit some amount of UV radiation.
While there are concerns about UV radiation, highly sensitive equipment is required to detect any UV emissions from CFLs. Check out the EPA website for more information on mercury and UV radiation with CFLs.
CFL bulbs deliver significant savings in energy usage for your lighting, saving you money on your electric bills. However you should weigh the negatives against the savings before deciding if CFLs are what you want to use.
Light Emitting Diode (LED) light bulbs
LEDs use a semiconductor as its light source. This allows these bulbs to be cool to the touch because they produce little if any heat. They are one of the most energy-efficient bulb technologies available today. A 9W LED bulb will replace an old 60W traditional incandescent bulb. That’s an 85% energy savings for the same brightness! LEDs also currently have one of the longest bulb life at 25,000 hours instead of the 1,000 hour life of a 60W bulb. They are more efficient and longer-lasting than CFLs and don’t have any of the negative issues associated with CFLs.
The downside to LEDs up until now is that you will pay more at the cash register for LEDs than CFLs. You would still come out ahead in the long run, but the upfront cost was higher.
While you can still see more expensive LEDs, today you can find a new generation of LED bulbs that are even a little bit cheaper than CFLs. Better energy efficiency, longer life, cheaper price and no health issues combine to make LEDs a popular option for replacing old incandescent bulbs.